|Bob Jones University President Steven Pettit|
In the wake of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the 1910s and 1920s conservative evangelicals in America divided into two groups.
This has been a well-chronicled story (see works by George Marsden and Joel Carpenter, especially), but it is worth repeating for those of you who need to get up to speed.
Neo-evangelicals retained a good deal of fundamentalist theology, but rid themselves of the separatism and militant anti-modernism of their immediate ancestors who fought for control of the major Protestant denominations a generation earlier. Neo-evangelicalism prided itself on “cooperation without compromise.” They wanted to engage the world–intellectually and spiritually–from the perspective of their conservative Protestant faith. Most historians suggest that the neo-evangelical movement was born when the National Association of Evangelicals was established in 1942.
Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois quickly became the flagship undergraduate college of this movement.
Other conservative Protestants chose to remain in their separatist enclaves and continue the militant battle against liberal theology. They not only separated from the world, but they also separated from anyone (especially neo-evangelicals) who they believed were “compromising” with the world. While neo-evangelicals rid themselves of the label “fundamentalist” in the 1940s and 1950s, these Protestants kept the monicker and continued to build a movement around it.
Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina was the flagship undergraduate college of post-1925 American fundamentalism.
Interesting fact: Billy Graham spent his first year of college at Bob Jones College (when it was located in Cleveland, Tennessee). He left the college because he could not handle the rules. He eventually made his way to Wheaton.
As Adam Laats notes at his blog I Love You But You’re Going to Hell, Bob Jones and Wheaton College have not always been on the best of terms. But a recent visit to Wheaton by the president of Bob Jones may be a sign that hatchets have been buried.
Here is a taste of Laat’s post: